Tag Archives: Aeriol Piano

Jazz Word review by Ken Waxman

Kris Davis – Aeriol Piano (CF 233)
Agustí Fernández – El laberint de la memòria (Mbari Musica)
Denman Maroney – Double Zero (Porter Records)
Simon Nabatov – Spinning Songs of Herbie Nichols (Leo Records)

Something In The Air: Solo Piano Strategies
Solo playing has always been the make-or-break yardstick for pianists of any genre. That’s solo playing not playing solo, an important distinction which differentiates between exhibiting showy breaks and having an overall musical plan for the mini-orchestra this is at his or her fingertips. The solo challenge is more pronounced for improvisers since even if they’re interpreting compositions, originality is the paramount concern. These challenges don’t prevent pianists from trying their hands at solo sessions. But it’s instructive to note that the memorable ones, such as the piano dates here by an American, a Canadian, a Catalan and a Russian, use different strategies to attain matchless quality.

Agustí Fernández’s El laberint de la memòria Mbari Musica MBARI 04 is the closest to what many expect from a solo recital. That’s because the Barcelona-based pianist, best-known for his improvisational work with experimenters such as bassist Barry Guy, based the 14 ruminations which make up this program on 20th Century Spanish so-called classical music. The originality results because Fernández doesn’t play any of that music but instead offers interpretations birthed from careful, repeated listening to many of those compositions. Fernández’s magisterial elucidations include such chamber music staples as subtle dynamic shifts and exposing waterfalls of carefully positioned notes, but he isn’t limited to flourishes. A kinetic piece such as “Catedral” for instance may have metronomic theme elaboration, but his touch is such that soundboard echoes continue to ring long after syncopated octaves flash and flow. More moderated tunes such as “Tonada” which melodically echo both “Hatikvah” and “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child” use both strains to never slip into bathos while sustaining a delicate interface. Balanced precisely, L’esmoldor not only proffers a baroque-like series of gentle key strokes, but contrasts them with kalimba-like string strokes. Also for every bouncing theme exposition or instance of breezy swing, Fernández brings a tougher stance to other tracks – or as contrast on the same ones. For instance his measured, mandolin-like strums on unwound treble strings during “Pluja Sorda” are coupled with repeated key slaps, with the narrative becoming more staccato as sympathetic rattles and rumbles move past the strings and soundboard and begin reflecting the timbres from key-frame wood.

Another sophisticated piano explorer is Calgary-born Kris Davis, whose musical studies in Toronto lead to a New York career working with likes of saxophonist Tony Malaby. On Aeriol Piano Clean Feed CF 233 CD she delves into the instrument which can simultaneously express the qualities of a harp and percussion. She can do so at near-warp speed as she demonstrates on “Good Citizen” where high-frequency glissandi skip and slither across the keyboard until dynamic tremolos give way to hesitant plinks that could be recasting “Chopsticks”. She also plays at moderate tempos as on “A Different Kind of Sleep”, where tones unroll with taffy pull-like slowness as lower-pitched harmonies sympathetically ring. Mallet-teased strings dominate the exposition of “Saturn Returns”, working up to a broken-octave confrontation among internal string pops, wooden exterior slaps and stopped keyboard pulses. Her technique isn’t all reductionist though as she demonstrates on the first track which backs away from repeated flourishes and affiliated note exaggerations to reveal a balladic recasting of “All the Things You Are”.

Fernández’s and Davis’ under-the-hood, speaking-length explorations are taken to a logical extreme on Double Zero Porter Records PRCD-4063. Inspired equally by the music of Conlon Nancarrow, Ornette Coleman, Henry Cowell and Thelonious Monk, New York state-resident Denman Maroney uses temporal harmony on what he calls a “hyperpiano” to produce a keyboard program in several tempos at once. The instrument’s strings are plucked, slapped and bowed after being prepared with copper bars, steel cylinders, Tibetan prayer bowls and rubber blocks. From the first literal discord heard on this nine-part suite, the crackling friction exposed insinuates harpsichord and Celtic harp quivers, as well as kalimba and guzheng reverberations plus suggestions of a metal saw. Still his subtle keyboard phrasing on tracks such as “Double Zero Part II” confirms that it’s a piano which is the major sound source. This program reaches its climax on “Double Zero Part VI” where Maroney`s arpeggio-rich continuum that’s almost impressionistic in its exposition unfolds alongside low-pitched, tremolo blows on the prepared strings abrasive enough to sound partials and extensions as well as root tones, involving the back frame, bottom board and capotes bar as much as the speaking length. Finally a series of sweeping glissandi are backed by cymbal-like reverberations for the finale. Elsewhere his staccato touch implies a duo between a portable keyboard and an all-metal double bass, although there are still enough cascades and pitch-sliding polytones audible so that the pianistic balance is never subsumed by friction-laden clips or excited string patterns.

A disparate but even more demanding approach to solo playing is displayed brilliantly on Spinning Songs of Herbie Nichols Leo Records CD LR 632, Unaccompanied and only using the instrument’s excepted range and properties, Simon Nabatov creates original takes on eight compositions by under-appreciated American pianist/composer Herbie Nichols (1919-1963). Although the scholarly, sporadically-recorded Nichols was Bronx born of Trinidadian parents and never lived anywhere but New York, Nabatov’s position as an outsider allows him to bring more than technical skills to a rethink of Nichols’ tunes. Russian-born and educated, Nabatov lived in New York for a decade and now resides in Köln. Closer to the European tradition than the composer, who admired Prokofiev, Nabatov’s approach often slows down the originals, introducing his own harmonic language to the late composer’s running chords and subtle swing. Hear this on a stately elaboration of “The Third World”. Persuasively elaborating Nichols polyphony with hard syncopation and popping stops, the pianist’s take is both chromatic and creative. Similarly his jocular version of “Terrpsichore” contains enough showy glissandi to advance the juddering melody in different tempos, while the sprinkling of staccato pumps overlaid with harsh passing chords creates a recurring syncopation that builds excitement like the repeated coda on Count Basie’s “April in Paris”. The most profound example of the ingenuity implicit in Nichols writing and Nabatov’s playing occurs with “Blue Chopsticks”. Pushing the composer’s kinetic variant of the amateur pianist’s hoary chestnut even further out, Nabatov never loses the groove. Yet with staccato extrusions and discursive glissandi he’s able to simultaneously reflect the original line, Nichols’ rearrangement and his own variation on the theme.

Judging by these CDs, and how different each sounds, there appears to be as many original methods to treat solo piano playing as there are piano keys and strings.

Musica Jazz review by Pollastri

KRIS DAVIS – Aeriol Piano (CF 223)
La giovane pianista canadese è da tempo una delle personalità più interessanti della scena newyorke-se, grazie ai lavori con il suo trio e con Ingrid Laubrock, Tony Malaby e Kermit Driscoll. Questo lavoro si avvia con l’unica composizione non originale, destrutturata al punto da essere irriconoscibile fino quasi alla fine: un modo per mostrare le proprie radici e la chiara intenzione di superarle. Segue il brano forse migliore: la lunga Saturn Return, cangiante, ricca di stilemi e forme espressive ma egualmente coeren-te, compiuta e ricca di pathos. Più uniforme e astratta A Different Kind Of Sleep, comunque descrittiva ed espressivamente sospesa. Già questi tre brani, complessiva-mente quasi due terzi dell’album, ne evidenziano la direzione, in equilibrio tra classicità novecen-tesca e improvvisazione, in una forma che (probabilmente non a caso) a più riprese richiama alla memoria Paul Bley. Nel prosieguo, ricco di momenti d’interesse, il lavoro presenta forse troppa uni-formità e una qualche ridondanza, senza che ciò sminuisca né il suo valore, né l’interesse per la sua autrice estrosa.

Jazz.pt review by Rui Duarte

Kris Davis – Aeriol Piano (CF 233)
Um solo absoluto de uma pianista conotada com a facção mais vanguardista do jazz actual é um desafio para o ouvinte. Espera-se improvisação e criatividade, mas receia-se a confrontação com estados de alma menos agradáveis e eventuais agressões sonoras. São sentimentos, por vezes contraditórios, que génios artísticos como Cecil Taylor tão bem souberam explorar numa corrente estética libertária em que música, poesia e outras artes podem coalescer. Ora, fundamental para a que a honestidade musical num solo desta natureza esteja presente é necessário que o artista tenha saberes técnicos e sensibilidade musical apurados.

Kris Davis dispõe desse talento e de tais saberes. Em “Aeriol”, gravado em Portugal, desenvolve um trabalho pleno de inteligência criativa. Embrenhada na sua solidão, consciente dos sons e dos silêncios, explora as diferentes texturas e possibilidades sonoras do piano para criar composições que acabam estruturadas numa arquitectura coerente. Como no notável “Saturn Returns”, em que os extremos  das escalas do teclado se tocam, os contrastes entre as teclas e as cordas dialogam entre si e a percussão e o dedilhar se complementam. E Kris não evita esboçar ou referenciar melodias ou sentimentos melancólicos, como na sua versão de “All The Things You Are“ ou em “A Different Kind of Sleep“, em que o sono até pode acontecer, ou no final “Work for Water “.

A capacidade de inventar mantém-se ao longo do CD, sendo este um trabalho que respira e vive, não cristalizando em artifícios ou minimalismos fáceis. Há movimento e sinestesias (os olhos podem brilhar realmente em “Beam the Eyes“ ) e “ Stone” pode ser um trajecto curto e intenso. Muito interessante, sem nunca cansar.

Cuadernos de Jazz review by Jesús Gonzalo

Kris Davis – AERIOL PIANO (CF 233) ****
El sello portugués no se caracteriza precisamente por disponer de una nutrida lista de pianistas, pongamos por caso comparativo ECM, discográfica que, quizá por su más de 40 años a la espalda y por la propia idiosincrasia de su fundador, siempre se preocupó por establecer puentes entre la música clásica y la improvisación. Este hecho diferencial, habría que analizar con más detalle su por qué, contrariamente a lo que supondría en cuanto a prestigio y comercialmente, le ha permitido respaldar iniciativas instrumentales que en buenas manos han lanzado a Clean Feed a la cabeza del interés creativo del jazz del momento. Es más, así de memoria, y reciente, sólo dos pianistas mujeres, las dos con treinta y pocos, han entregado un disco a piano solo. Aeriol Piano quedaría enmarcado como producto en estudio y por plazos junto, al menos, tres publicaciones más. Cuestión que sirve para sopesar el alcance de una propuesta pianística que se significa, como las otras, en la creación jazzística contemporánea. Nos referimos, y empezamos con la pianista sugerida antes, a las de Angelica Sánchez en A little house, Agustí Ferández en El Laberint de la Memòria y Avenging Angel de Craig Taborn.

En un estudio comparado con el disco de Sánchez vemos aquí una menor dispersión temática y, digamos, una mayor solvencia técnica enfocada de manera menos plástica- naïf y bluesy. En cuanto al de Agustí Fernández aquí lo que nos interesaría es ver las distintas aplicaciones técnicas que se ejecutan (que incluyen piano preparado), porque mientras que para el pianista mallorquín esa elección esta íntimamente ligada a un discurso narrativo que preconfigura el resultado, no parece ser el caso que nos ocupa. Por último, cuestión que parecía inevitable por cercanía en el tiempo, este disco ha sido objeto de comparaciones (también empezamos así este artículo refiriéndonos a los sellos) con el relevante (aunque sigue dejando ciertas dudas) debut de Taborn en ECM. La cualidad pianística en ambos es incuestionable, pero entre la frondosidad ora concentrada ora espaciada de uno, resalta en Davis una construcción menos impulsiva, más detallista y un léxico más claramente inducido por autores contemporáneos.

Y esto, que se ve reflejado en Different kind of sleep, viene dado por la predilección por un autor como Morton Feldman, mientras que en Taborn, y también ahora hablamos de memoria auditiva, veíamos parentesco con el piano de György Ligeti. Ambos, eso sí, manejan supuestos técnico-estílisticos que son una síntesis de muchas otras referencias previas (Cecil Taylor, John Cage, Andrew Hill) que apreciamos en una articulación parecida entre ambos en Good Citizen (título de su único trabajo a trío con bajo y batería) y en Beam the eyes, donde los bloques de acordes en ex-tensión cambiante vienen dados por irrupciones y figuras reiteradas, todo ello construido desde una dimensión percusiva del instrumento.

Uno de los estudios para piano finales de Ligeti, a modo de bosquejo, parece inspirar el principio circular (mano izquierda) y contemplativo (derecha) del breve Stone. El trabajo de volúmenes y el rastro tímbrico, entre sombras y lloviznas (aquí nos recuerda a Agustí Fenández), se sugiere en The Last Time. El piano preparado en Saturn Return (tema que da para mucho analizar y disfrutar por su imaginativa construcción y capacidad evocativa) invita a viajar (como ya a John Cage a principios de 1940 en sus Sonatas e Interludios) a latitudes distintas (Bali), introduciendo luego fuertes contrastes de volumen y materia que no sustraen esa posibilidad viajera. Un corte antes, abriendo el disco y de forma aislada, el único standard, un All the Things you are sencillamente inédito e impagable, fuera de tópicos, atraído hacia una lectura disociativa del centro melódico e impulsada en su planteamiento argumental por Keith Jarrett.

Al fin, no sabemos muy bien la razón de por qué tanto este magnífico trabajo como el de Taborn no llegan a nuestro parecer a la máxima puntuación. Dejamos la quinta estrella a esa apreciación quizá inconsciente en la que el orden de los “sucesos” cobra pleno sentido.

All About Jazz Italy review by Vincenzo Roggero

Kris Davis – Aeriol Piano (CF 233)
Valutazione: 4 stelle
Brandelli di melodia che si ricompongono per un istante al termine di un girovagare tortuoso e apparentemente senza meta tra tasti di ebano e di avorio, martelletti, corde tese, cassa di risonanza e il vuoto circostante. Si tratta di “All the Things You Are” sofisticata, essenziale, minimalista, ma colma di pathos, biglietto da visita di Aeriol Piano, convincente prova solitaria di una sempre più convincente Kris Davis. La giovane pianista canadese, solidi studi accademici alle spalle, collaborazioni eccellenti (Tony Malaby, John Hollenbeck, Theo Blackman, Chris Speed, Bill Frisell tra gli altri), leader di formazioni assai interessanti, supera brillantemente il banco di prova più temuto dai pianisti, quello dell’incontro ravvicinato e solitario con lo strumento.

Il resto dell’album si sviluppa sulle stesse coordinate tracciate nella lettura dell’unico standard presente. Quelle di un pianismo avventuroso a prescindere dalla materia prima a disposizione sia essa una forma canzone, una pagina scritta, una cellula melodica, un idea ritmica, un oggetto strofinato nella pancia dello strumento, una pausa o il silenzio.

Che è il protagonista assoluto di “A Different Kind of Sleep” delicata escursione di note in assenza di gravità, una passeggiata nello spazio che mette i brividi per come la semplicità possa essere esaltata a bellezza sublime. Colpiscono in Davis la capacità di fondere in una cifra stilistica decisamente personale il background accademico con il linguaggio del free (alcuni cluster alla Cecil Taylor sono formidabili elementi di contrasto nell’economia dell’incisione) oltre ad un evidente interesse per la musica contemporanea.

Musicista da seguire con molta attenzione.

Musicworks review by Stuart Broomer

Kris Davis – Aeriol Piano Clean Feed (CF 233)
Kris Davis is a Calgary-born pianist who has followed a path from the University of Toronto to the Banff Centre, eventually to settle in New York in 2001. There she has gradually established herself as a musician who happily resides in the special terrain that has arisen between free jazz and improvised music, working regularly with a distinguished set of associates that includes the saxophonists Tony Malaby and Ingrid Laubrock and the guitarist Mary Halvorsen in an ever-changing array of groups. Aeriol Piano, her first CD as a solo pianist, is a multi-faceted exposition of her largely improvisatory work, with an approach to the keyboard that can suggest an analytical machine gun or sharp feathers. The CD opens with familiar jazz terrain, Jerome Kern’s “All the Things You Are,” but the piece begins in percussive near-serial abstraction, its melody only emerging at the conclusion. Saturn Returns, a suite-like foray into prepared piano, follows, filled with a microscopic attention to shifts in rhythm and pitch. A Different Kind of Sleep floats in Feldman-like space; Good Citizen at once suggests blues and the Second Viennese School; Beam the Eyes is a chromatic locomotive.  For all that variety, it’s Davis’s constant invention and precision that give this CD its special character.

Written in Music review by Henning Bolte

Kris Davis – Aeriol Piano (CF 233)

Je komt geen herkenbare referentiepunten tegen als je naar het pianospel op dit album begint te luisteren. Het is een andere, onbekende maar uitermate heldere en consistente klankwereld waar je in terecht komt. Economisch gedoseerde toonreeksen van een onbekende logica maar een sterke coherentie. Hoe dat in het eerste stuk gaandeweg naar Jerome Kern’s All The Things You Are leidt en er weer uitgaat, is frappant en raadselachtig. Het lijkt alsof Davis met elke toon van het origineel apart eigen structuren bouwt. Het levert een aparte spiegelende contrastwerking op. Davis speelt niet simpel snel maar met een versnellende inzet en een afbreuk of wegbreken op het eind. Haar frasering krijgt daardoor iets weg van onregelmatig schuivende zandkorrels. Het levert velden met geraffineerde, eigenaardige tussenruimtes met een aparte microritmiek op. De cover van het album geeft daar een aardige visualisatie van.   Het tweede stuk, het tien minuten durende Saturn Return, treedt de luisteraar meteen met een hybride klankwereld tegemoet. Davis combineert hier gewone pianoklanken met pianoklanken die door preparaties tot stand komen. Ze gebruikt deze gemengde techniek op een sophisticated, eigen manier. Beide handen opereren dikwijls zo onafhankelijk van elkaar dat de indruk van twee verschillende instrumenten c.q. spelers ontstaat. Het zijn wederom ‘kleine’ klanken met hun eigenaardige tussenruimten die een stuk kosmische verbeelding oproepen.   Het derde stuk A Different Kind Of Sleep is het meest bijzondere stuk van het album. Het heeft een diepe concentratie waarvan een berustende werking uitgaat zonder dat de vreemdheid van de klank afneemt. Het stuk Stone heeft een soortgelijke tonaliteit maar hier is deze doorgeschoven naar een meer herkenbare elegische vorm en krijgt juist daardoor een sprekende schoonheid.   Tot de verbeelding spreken ook de titels Beam The Eyes and Work For Water. En wat te denken van de albumtitel! Het is een woord waar Google niets op weet, geen bits uit de bites-0ceaan kan leveren (en dat wil iets zeggen)! Ja, ‘Air’ en ‘Aureool’ klinken in ‘Aeriol’ mee maar het blijft verborgen welke stof het is. Uiteraard komt deze muziek niet uit het niets voort maar ze laat niet eenvoudigweg vergelijken, herleiden of labelen. De combinatie van solide coherentie en blijvende vreemdheid maken deze muziek zo sterk en fascinerend. Het is muziek die iets heeft en dat niet weggeeft. Het is wel zo dat ze onder het luisteren iets vrijgeeft en vrijmaakt. Rest mij nog op te noemen met welke groten Kris Davis al gespeeld heeft? Ze is inderdaad in de New Yorkse scene zeer in demand en er is ruim gelegenheid haar daar live EN op albums in verschillend contexten mee te maken. Maar hier gaat het om de het meest persoonlijke, haar solo-werk!

Ben Ratliff’s Best of 2011 list at The New York Times

1. PISTOL ANNIES “Hell on Heels” (Columbia Nashville) The country singer Miranda Lambert’s side project with Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley turned out to be loose, wise, tough, well written, well sung and more in tune with the debt-stricken American moment than her own record this year.

2. JASON MORAN/ROBERT GLASPER DOUBLE TRIO (Live, 1/15/11, streamableat wbgo.org/thecheckout/houstonians-in-nyc-live-at-92y-tribeca/) A 54-minute set of two free-form, convulsive, style-shifting songs, performed during the Houston-centric festival at the 92nd Street Y TriBeCa, programmed by the pianist Mr. Moran, and recorded for broadcast by WBGO (88.3 FM). (Mr. Moran on electric keyboard and Mr. Glasper on piano; Mark Kelley on electric bass and Alan Hampton on acoustic; Chris Dave and Eric Harland on drums.) When it ended, I felt that it said so much about where jazz is now — inasmuch as it is black music, popular music, regional music, improvised music and a philosophy of play — that I didn’t need to hear any more for a while. (If we can call it an album, it’s a better extended statement than most I heard this year; hence the inclusion of so many jazz album tracks in my singles list.)

3. TIM HECKER “Ravedeath, 1972” (Kranky) A beautiful and often brilliant dark-ambient record, a 12-part poem of immensity. There’s a real pipe organ at the heart of this album, recorded in a church in Iceland; loops and layers, distortions and fragmentations do the rest.

4. PAUL SIMON “So Beautiful or So What” (Hear Music/Concord) Not just his best record in a couple of decades but also a reminder of how resourceful he is as a composer — and a singer! — and how worthwhile his big thoughts (in this case, on faith and mortality) can be.

5. YOB “Atma” (Profound Lore) Doom metal at its most refined, gnashing and obsessive, with songs that take long stretches to climb their mountains, paying close attention to guitar touch and tone.

6. KRIS DAVIS “Aeriol Piano” (Clean Feed) Not the most representative album for Ms. Davis as a jazz pianist per se, but a solo-piano record of serious organization and thrift, around ideals of jazz and minimalism. (There is an “All the Things You Are” here for the ages.)
7. DEAF CENTER “Owl Splinters” (Type) I guess it was my dark-ambient year. Deaf Center is a Norwegian duo who play piano and cello with long tones, far-reaching sustain, carefully overlapping dissonances and wizardly use of audio space.

8. CRAIG TABORN “Avenging Angel” (ECM) Guess it was my solo-piano year too. Craig Taborn has played in so many contexts around jazz over the last 20 years that he seemed due for a solo record; that it would be this wide and thoughtful still came as a small surprise.

9. KENDRICK LAMAR “Section.80” (Top Dawg Entertainment) Mr. Lamar, a prolix young rapper from Compton, Calif., is neither much of a link to the ’80s Compton rappers before him nor the tricksterish Internet hip-hop around him. Musically, morally and otherwise his first album is all over the road, messing with Southern rap, R&B, spacey funk and fusion jazz, telling cautionary tales and generational observations, extolling natural beauty and keeping his own counsel.

10. MIA DOI TODD “Cosmic Ocean Ship” (City Zen) Redolent of Brazilian bossa nova, South American Nueva Canción and ’70s Los Angeles pop, Mia Doi Todd’s calm voice and simple songwriting illumine a meditative eco-beach record, perfectly poised and out of step.